Mamie Eisenhower’s experiences as a military officer’s wife had taught her important lessons which she implemented during her time as First Lady. With extraordinary creativity, commitment to her husband, and genuine love of “pretty, feminine” things, Mamie Eisenhower was “liked” (almost as much as Ike) and charmed America in the 1950’s. Continue reading
Eisenhower’s Stories: Funny, Poignant, Unforgettable
August. And time to start a new historical theme of the month! We’re going to explore some primary sources from the European Theater of World War II.
What’s a primary source? A document created by a real person who was really at the scene of the event. In other words – an official document, a journal, reminiscences, letters, etc. etc. It’s good to read primary sources and use reliable ones when researching history because you’re “listening” to an account by someone who experience it.
Today, I’m introducing a book of reminiscences by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. If you’ve been reading Gazette665 for a while, you know that Eisenhower is one of my favorite historical presidents, and I admire his leadership. Well, this was the book that made me an “Eisenhower fan.” Continue reading
The Battles for Berlin
Unbelievable that it’s May already…but I’m so excited to start the historical theme for this month – Victory in Europe: 1945 I’ve got all the Friday posts for the month planned as we remember World War II drawing to a close 70 years ago. (And before you Civil War history buffs go into mourning, don’t worry Back to Gettysburg on Tuesday continues…)
Next Friday will actually be the anniversary of VE Day (that’s abbreviation for Victory in Europe), but do you know what was happening today 70 years ago? Battle of Berlin.
No, I didn’t misspell the title of my blog post by adding an extra “s.” After reading and referencing several in-depth sources on this military situation, I’ve decided to address the Battles for Berlin. There was the military fight, but there were several other conflicts occurring simultaneously, so let’s dig deeper into the history and find out a little more of what was really happening.
1. Morale Conflict
The Nazi Party had never had any trouble lying to the German people, and in 1945 the lies continued. However, this time, there was a serious conflict. The radio broadcasts claimed victories, but, in the winter and spring, with Allied bombers attacking Berlin everyday, German troops retreating, and little food left in Berlin, there was serious cause for doubt.
The more insightful were very suspicious; the blind-believers consumed the propaganda. Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of the conflicting feelings was the change in forms of greetings; no longer were people greeting each other with the famous honorary salutation to Hitler. Now, the greeting was “Bleib ubrig” which translates to “Survive.”
2. Leadership Conflict
Always suspicious, Adolf Hitler’s paranoid fears reached an all-time high as Allied troops closed in on Berlin. Formerly trusted advisors, political leaders, and generals were raged at, accused of treason, arrested, and sometimes executed.
The German generals realized the increasing hopelessness of the situation. By the last weeks of April, some were willing to ask the Allies for terms of surrender. A couple actually dared to send the request, believing there was little purpose in prolonging the fight and killing more people. Hitler found out and…well…retribution was swift.
Out of touch with reality and descending into some form of madness, Hitler cowered in his bunker, firmly believing his Reich would again rise and conquer the world. Thus, casualties mounted, and the generals fought on, waiting for the day Hitler would be out of the way.
3. Moral Conflict
How was there a moral conflict? you’re wondering. I know, it seems hard to understand, especially when Hitler and his political party were capable of such horrible atrocities. However, the moral conflict wasn’t with them. They called out a German militia of young boys and elderly men and gave orders for this “militia” to be sent into the jaws of the advancing Russian army.
However, some of the military commanders had serious doubts as to the effectiveness of these “militias” and furthermore, they felt terrible about sending 14 and 70 year olds to bloody battlefield deaths. Sadly, if those military leaders had openly protested, they would have been shot for not following orders…so they obeyed and wrote their regret and guilt in their journals.
4. Allied Conflict
Transitioning our perspective away from the Germans and Berlin, we’ll focus on the Allied Forces in Europe. The most powerful were United States, England, and Russia. And there is the problem.
Russia – properly called the Soviet Union at this time in history – was Communist while the United States and England were Capitalist. (In case, you don’t know, these are two very different economic and political forms based on vastly different ideologies.) Thus, there were mini-conflicts within the Allied Powers.
To summarize, Stalin wanted to take Berlin. Churchill (British leader) really didn’t want the Soviets to take Berlin because he was afraid they might not give all that territory back (he was right). General Eisenhower – American and the supreme commander of all Allied Forces – was in a difficult situation and eventually decided to allow the Russians the “pleasure” of taking Berlin.
But the political/military under-surface conflict continued to simmer. Stalin (Soviet leader) would not communicate clearly with Eisenhower. Stalin would also not give his generals clear commands, using their rivalries to compound the situation. Ugh…headache.
5. Military Conflict (Summary)
Starting in January 1945, the Russian armies launched an offensive movement toward the heart of Germany. Tanks blasted the way forward and infantry followed, pushing the German troops steadily backward. Arching through the east and north of Germany, they closed on Berlin, the German capital.
From the West, Eisenhower and the Western Allies also advanced and cut off German retreat via the west and south. (Since the Russian actually took Berlin, we’ll focus on them this week, more is coming on the American troops later in the month.)
By the end of April, the Soviets were shelling Berlin and shortly thereafter the attack began. The fighting raged from street to street and bunker to bunker. Fierce fighting was followed by brutal prisoner treatment, looting, and harming the civilians. On May 2, 1945, the city unconditionally surrendered to the Russian Army.
Hitler was dead and the German commanders were free to ask for surrender terms for the entire country. Six days after the surrender of Berlin, the entire world would be celebrating because… (Come back next week for the rest of the story!)
P.S. Had you considered some of the other conflicts mentioned here? Can you think of any others you would add to the list?
Did you know you’re missing out on over the half the history on Gazette665? If you haven’t LIKED the Facebook Page you’re depriving yourself of extra historical quotes and inspiration for writers. (If you have liked the page, here’s big thank you!)
“I Like Ike”
Long before Facebook introduced the trend of “Liking” people and things, a presidential candidate’s campaign planners distributed pins reading “I Like Ike.” Ike was actually the nickname of former U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was liked and was voted in as the 34th President of the United States (1953-1961).
President Eisenhower is MY FAVORITE historical U.S. President!
Highlights of Eisenhower’s Presidency
Strong Foreign Policy: decisive stand against Communism, introduces the “domino theory” (says if one nation in a region falls to Communism others will quickly follow), 1953 Iranian coup, end of the Korean War, increases U.S. nuclear weapon power, ends Suez Canal crisis of 1956, the U-2 incident, the beginning of the space race.
Strengthening America’s Foundations: introduces the interstate highway system, encourages the founding of NASA, strongly supports civil rights, oversees the desegregation of American public schools, opposes the McCarthy hearings, encourages American patriotism.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Legacy
Eisenhower was president during one of America’s strongest periods. Fully recovered from the Great Depression and with a sense of national pride still running strong from the victory of World War II, America was prospering at home and expanding global influence.
With military training and service in both world wars, ending World War II as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, Eisenhower understand military power. He also understood the Soviets. While taking a strong stand against Communism and its spread, Eisenhower played a careful chess-game of diplomacy, both building and expanding the American military power and attempting to reach out to the Soviet Union to break through the Iron Curtain. Eisenhower’s views and actions in these early years of the Cold War set important precedent for American policies with the Soviet Union.
Eisenhower understood the importance of America’s founding dreams. He valued a high-moral standard and acknowledge a religious/moral code as essential to the well-being of a nation. His domestic policies were sometimes controversial at the time, but he supported the belief that people’s freedoms must be safeguarded and citizens have a patriotic duty to see that their freedoms are upheld.
In a more “concrete” example of Eisenhower strengthening the infrastructure of our nation, he began the interstate highway system…so every time you drive on a nicely paved highway here in the U.S. remember Eisenhower!
Inspiration Quotes by Eisenhower
“The hand of the aggressor is stayed by strength – and strength alone.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1951)
“Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952)
“The true purpose of education is to prepare young men and women for effective citizenship in a free form of government.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953)
“I believe the only way to protect my own rights is to protect the rights of others.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953)
“Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
“We must be ready to dare all for our country. For history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid… A people that values its privileges about its principles soon loses both…” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, First Inaugural Address, 1953)
Why Eisenhower Is My Favorite President
Dwight D. Eisenhower was first and foremost a military commander. That is not to say he was “military dictator.” No, he held his elected office and responsibility to the American people very seriously. The man who defended liberty through landings in Normandy and battles in France was the same man who defended freedom in the schoolrooms of America.
He showed us what a “peaceful” presidency looks like. With a strong foreign policy backed by military power, he kept the peace and kept America safe. He encouraged education, showed support for the beginnings of the civil rights movement, expanded America’s transportation system, and paved the way American space exploration.
His military background brought strength and influence to his views on America’s role in the world and justice at home. The American hero of World War II led the nation through policy-forming years and constantly reminded the American people that they defended their own freedoms. They were the patriotic men, women, and children. They were America.
Happy Very Belated Presidents’ Day to my favorite president, Dwight D. Eisenhower!
P.S. Did you have a favorite of the 4 U.S. presidents discussed this month? (James Monroe, William H. Taft, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower)
Leave a comment!
No Second Guessing: A Lesson From Allied Headquarters, 1944
Have you ever had those moments of panic when you second guess yourself, sincerely hoping that you’ve prepared for a school test, worrying about the project you’re overseeing at work, or wondering if your kids are ready to face the challenges of life? I do. Just last week there was a half-day of intense panic, “I’m trying to write a book! What on earth do I think I’m doing? Where am I gonna find a publisher. I’m nervous…” Now that I’ve revealed a minor fear perhaps you can think of a few that you’re facing?
Well, I’ve got some great news for you this week. One of the best military leaders in the world faced a couple hours of second-guessing his plans. It’s time to learn a lesson about leadership and life directly from the planning headquarters of the June 6, 1944, Normandy Invasion.
He was the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in the European Theater of World War II. He’d been a soldier all his life, from his first training at West Point, through training exercises, and military war games. He was a practical man, a kind man who loved his family, a man who knew how to think, a man with vision, a man with a warrior’s spirit. His name was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
For many long months Eisenhower and a team of brilliant commanders had been planning Operation Overlord, going over every detail to ensure the success of the attack to the best of their ability. Attacks from the air – paratroopers and gliders – would begin the assault with the purpose of capturing important bridges to prevent the Germans from bringing up reinforcements. The navies would bombard the German defenses, followed by the infantry land assault. Militarily, the plan was daring, but sound.
Then on May 30, 1944, while waiting to determine the day of attack, Eisenhower’s headquarters telephone rang. It was Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory, an expert in aviation warfare. He expressed his doubts about the success of the paratrooper and glider attacks, predicting heavy casualties without any benefit to the other attackers. Later, Eisenhower wrote about this moment: “It would be difficult to conceive a more soul-racking problem…” (Eisenhower, p. 246).
He asked Leigh-Mallory to put his concerns in writing and then “…went to my tent alone and sat down to think. Over and over I reviewed each step…thoroughly and exhaustively. …[There] was the possibility that if he were right the effect of the disaster would be far more than local: it would be likely to spread to the entire force” (Eisenhower, p. 246). After considering all information from every angle, Eisenhower decided that the airborne attacks must go on if the Utah beach landing was to be successful and that Utah was a crucial point that could not be cancelled.
“I telephoned him that the attack would go as planned…” (Eisenhower, p. 247). The decision was made. Eisenhower had made all the preparations that he could to ensure the success of the invasion, now, ultimately it depended on the men. Most of the high ranking Allied commanders visited the troops in the weeks leading up to the assault. On June 5 – after making the final decision to go ahead with the attack despite the questionable weather report – Eisenhower had one last duty to perform.
“I spent the time visiting the troops that would participate in the assault. A late evening trip on the fifth took me to the camp of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division [paratroopers], one of the units whose participation had been so severely questioned by the air commander [Leigh-Mallory]. I found the men in fine [spirits], many of them joshingly admonishing me that I had no cause for worry, since the 101st was on the job and everything would be taken care of in fine shape. I stayed with them until the last of them were in the air, somewhere about midnight. After a two-hour trip back to my own camp, I had only a short time to wait until the first news should come in…” (Eisenhower, p. 251-252).
Success. Paratroopers and glider crews seized the bridges and prevented German reinforcements from arriving quickly and Utah Beach was in Allied possession. And Leigh-Mallory – the good commander who felt it was his duty to express his concerns – was among the first to call Eisenhower to congratulate him on the positive outcome.
Now, it’s a good, true story…but what can we learn?
General Eisenhower was in the middle of a ginormous task and suddenly someone raised valid doubts, causing the monster called “second-guess” to reign for a few hours. What did Eisenhower do? Reviewed his preparations and then went forward with the action. Valuable lesson.
Okay, so most likely you’re not a five star general planning the liberation of Europe with the eyes of the world watching you. But remember that difficulty of yours – that “oh, my goodness what am I doing, I’m totally second guessing the wisdom of this” situation? Learn from one of the best leaders in history how to turn doubt into success.
#1. Stop. Take a deep breath.
#2. Preparation – review everything you know about the situation, every possible outcome. (If you can’t do this, you need more information). Next, weigh the cost and benefit, keeping in mind moral and ethical standards.
#3. Decide. If you’re sure you’re right, go ahead. But if you’ve considered the options and determined this is not a good plan, decide and be ready to stick to your conclusion.
#4. Action. Sometimes this falls on us, but sometimes it falls on others. If you’re the person to carry out the plan, do it! If you’re like the general, make sure your followers are prepared to do their best and encourage them along the way.
Well, I’m feeling better and more prepared for the challenges I’m facing after a little lesson at Allied headquarters. Remember that book I’m writing and the panic of publishing? I’ve taken a deep breath and discovered I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. Library research books are on the way and hopefully in a few weeks or months, I’ll be able to finish #3 (Decide) and boldly move on to #4 (Action).
Thanks General Eisenhower for writing about your hard decisions and showing us how a successful leader combats doubts with preparation and action.
Plans are established by council; by wise council wage war. Proverbs 20:18, NKJV
Eisenhower, D.D. (1948). Crusade in Europe. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.